BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY (0.533-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: BRISTOL, TENNESSEE
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 24 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 7:30 P.M. ET, SATURDAY, AUG. 17 (NBCSN/PRN/SIRIUSXM)
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, August 16, at 4:10 p.m. local time in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center.
POINTS, POINTS, POINTS: Trying to secure his place in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, William Byron continues to pad his position above the cut-off line. After a solid run at Michigan International Speedway last weekend, the sophomore driver now sits 89 points above the cutoff line with three races left in the regular season. In fact, over the last 11 races, Byron has gained 104 points on the bubble, gaining points in all but two races in that span.
STAYING HOT IN THE SUMMER: Continuing his hot streak during the summer months, Byron isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. In the last three races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has started within the top three positions twice and has gone on to finish in the top 10 twice and in the top five once across those same three races. Also, in two of those three races, the driver of the No. 24 was ranked in the top eight in points earned. Byron has collected track-best finishes in seven of the last eight races, a stat he would like to continue this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
LIBERTY U RETURNS: For back-to-back weekends, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will carry Liberty University on board starting with last Sunday's race at Michigan and again with the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Returning as a primary sponsor of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in the midst of its fifth season of sponsoring the 21-year-old driver. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in business communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.
BATTLE AT BRISTOL: This weekend, Byron will make his fourth NASCAR Cup Series start and his seventh national series start at Bristol Motor Speedway. His best Cup race at the “Last Great Colosseum” came a few months ago this season, when the driver of the No. 24 qualified second, lining up alongside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott. Despite early damage, he was able to rally to a track-best finish of 16th. In the Xfinity Series, Byron's best finish at the 0.533-mile concrete oval was a 12th-place effort in spring 2017. He collected a fourth-place finish in his lone Truck Series start at the venue, leading one lap in the process. In his K&N start at the track, Byron led 44 laps before coming up just shy of the win with a runner-up finish.
CLOSE TO HOME: Chris Burkey, the pit crew coach for the Nos. 9 and 24 teams, hails from Greeneville, Tennessee, which is only 47 miles southwest of Bristol Motor Speedway. Burkey has an extensive background in coaching, getting his start in football. He played football for Wingate University, where he eventually started his coaching career. Burkey coached college football from 1992 to 2005 for Wingate, East Tennessee and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2005, he joined the NFL’s Miami Dolphins as a scout. Looking for a new challenge, Burkey made the transition from football to NASCAR when he was hired as a developmental pit crew coach for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. He moved up to the head coach position for the former Nos. 5 and 24 teams in 2014.
CHEVY STAGE: Byron will make an appearance at the Team Chevy stage at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 4:15 p.m. local time. Fans can visit the Chevy stage in the Fan Zone to see the question-and-answer session with Byron.
MICHIGAN MOMENTS: Starting off last weekend at Michigan International Speedway by qualifying a track-best third, Byron fought a loose No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 throughout the majority of the first stage of the race but was still able to collect top-five stage points. Still fighting handling issues during Stage 2, No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus utilized pit strategy to help the sophomore driver finish the stage in eighth and set him up to make it to the end of the race with one more pit stop. As the laps began to wind down and most of the field was close on fuel, Byron took advantage of the situation to work his way within the top 10 running order. At the 10-to-go mark, Knaus told Byron to begin saving fuel, as well. Running out of fuel as he took the checkered flag, Byron picked up a track-best eighth-place finish, his eighth top-10 result of the 2019 season. He has now doubled his top-10 total from his Rookie of the Year campaign, when he collected four top-10s in 2018.
RECORD-SETTING POSSIBILITY: Two of the three youngest drivers to claim a victory at Bristol have driven for Hendrick Motorsports. If Byron were to win the race this weekend, it would not only be his first Cup Series victory but would solidify him as the youngest driver to win at the track.
William Byron on the night race at Bristol:
“I try not to focus on it too much. It’s a really exciting race as a fan but as a driver it’s a stressful race. You really have to manage yourself and your car for all 500 laps. You can’t put yourself in a position to take yourself out of contention early on because it’s so hard to recover. You try to treat it like any other race but it’s a cool one to win if you can.”
Byron on PJ1 helping at Bristol compared to other tracks:
“I feel like the PJ1 probably has the biggest impact at Bristol of all the races we have on the schedule in terms of the grip level of the bottom versus the top. It takes a long time for those two lanes to neutral out and equal in speed. The bottom is always faster for the initial laps, but it takes that progression for when you get about 10 laps into a run and then the top lane is the fastest way to go. It just depends on how much width they give the bottom when they treat it. If they give the bottom lane a wide width, then it tends to stay dominate longer and the progression is slower.”